IT Project Discovery Phase: Key Steps to Succeed

IT Project Discovery Phase: Key Steps to Succeed

Would you like to deliver faster, avoid going over budget, and provide better results during your IT project delivery path? All these can be solved by introducing a project discovery phase upfront, before plunging directly into software development. 

Discovery phase is essential in determining the success rate of your product. It helps business owners ensure higher return on investment, create a better user experience, and avoid making costly changes during the latter stages of development. How? Let us guide you through the discovery process of a project at Apiko.

What is a discovery phase? 

A discovery phase in software development means preparation for the project by conducting research and defining the scope of the project before its actual development. In general, it involves the following activities:

  • Carrying out project research
  • Determining the software concept and requirements
  • Thorough analysis of the elicited project-related data
  • Gathering a team
  • Creating functional designs
  • Creating the project roadmap
  • Estimating the cost and duration

Who is involved in the IT project discovery phase?

To nail the discovery phase of the project, you’ll need a team of experts, who will help you lay a solid foundation for your project’s success. When you carry out the discovery phase, it’ll be much easier to deliver the rest of the project on time, on budget, and on value. Here are the key team members, who will guide you through the intricacies of initial planning. 

  • Project manager is responsible for ensuring flawless communication between the project team and the client to keep the process extremely transparent, also for planning the scope of work and tracking its progress. 
  • Business analyst makes sure nothing is missed during planning by gathering all the necessary requirements in detailed documentation for everyone to stay on the same page during software development.
  • UI/UX designer creates wireframes of the key user flows, ensures the interface is highly intuitive and provides meaningful and relevant experiences to users. 
  • Tech lead gathers non-functional requirements, chooses optimal software architecture, advises on the most suitable tech stack.

What is the goal of a discovery phase?

The discovery phase of the project allows the team to define the needs of the client, users, and stakeholders, and prepare detailed documentation with business and technical requirements to serve as guidance for the project software development team. 

Discovery activities at Apiko are aimed at streamlining three main project threads: Architecture, Business Analysis and User Experience.

  1. Architecture. Crafting the target state architecture, gathering functional and non-functional requirements, and creating a DevOps plan. - Tech Lead
  2. Business Analysis. Elicitation of business requirements, defining solution scope and vision, compiling a high-level product backlog. - Business Analyst
  3. User Experience. Identification of primary user personas and their pain points. Creation of the interactive prototype of the key flows. - UI/UX Designer

One of the main outcomes of the discovery stage is the establishment of milestones and detailed budget estimation. The project manager oversees the project kickoff, and takes charge of communications and initial planning activities, to deliver the highest business value and reach all of the set goals of the project.

What are the deliverables that you can expect at the end of the discovery phase?

The conducted research and analyzed data result in the deliverables. They provide a foundation for your development teams to build on. Here are the deliverables we provide during the discovery phase at Apiko:


  • Architecture plan
  • Non-functional requirements
  • DevOps Plan

Business Analysis

  • Product vision & business goals
  • Product backlog
  • Detailed requirements for the 1st sprint

User Experience

  • Wireframes of the key user flows
  • Elaborated designs for the 1st sprint

Project Management

  • Implementation roadmap
  • Implementation efforts estimation
  • Project governance approach (methodology)
  • Change management approach

Also,  at the end you get a discovery playback demo, which contains a summary of all findings that outlines the future solution, scope and timelines.

What are the steps in the project discovery phase?

At Apiko, the discovery phase usually takes around 3 weeks to carry out all the necessary research and planning activities, however its duration can vary depending on your needs. During this time, a team of dedicated specialists create essential project documentation and produce the deliverables you need to proceed the project forward to implementation. 

Here is the detailed description of project discovery in agile with all the deliverables we do at Apiko. 

Week 1. Preparation 

The first week of the discovery phase involves getting initial understanding by the team about the future solution. Business owner provides information about the scope of their potential product, the current state of the project, stakeholders, and preferred technologies. 

The team learns as much as possible about the product and plans discovery activities, aligning on roles and responsibilities within the team.

What is the result?

  • Discovery agenda and schedule
  • Stakeholders list
  • Communication plan

Week 2. Initiation

During the discovery phase initiation, we analyze your business needs and requirements, set business goals and success criteria. Also, the team defines user personas, analyzes the current and future states of the product. 

Having analyzed the functional requirements, we define the right technical approach for the project development. Also the team elicits non-functional requirements, elaborates priorities and milestones, estimates the agreed scope, and validates all the discovery findings. 

What is the result?

  • Product vision & business goals
  • In scope and out of scope activities
  • Solution architecture, non-functional requirements, technology stack
  • List of assumptions, risks, dependencies
  • Mockups, visual designs

The deliverables of the discovery phase initiation (with examples):

  • Product vision & business goals. Establishing what the product intends to solve for the users in the long-term future and measurable goals that will bring the business closer to its vision.
  • Product Backlog. Compiling a prioritized list of functionality which a product should contain, based on the roadmap and its requirements, for the development team to build on.
  • Architecture plan. Making the decisions related to overall system structure and behavior.
  • Non-Functional Requirements. Defining important performance requirements and system attributes such as security, reliability, performance, scalability, usability, and maintainability. 
  • DevOps Plan. Setting the goals and objectives of the DevOps team engagement and outlining their responsibilities and activities during your project development.
  • Wireframes of the key user flows. Wireframes combine page layout designs with a simplified way of representing interactions a user may have while using your software.

Week 3. Wrap up

The last week of the discovery phase for your project wraps up all the research and planning activities to finalize the project implementation and its budget. In particular, it involves finishing the estimates, finalizing the roadmap and team composition, and conducting the discovery playback presentation with all the findings and next steps. 

What is the result?

  • Estimated work breakdown structure (WBS)
  • Project roadmap
  • Discovery playback deck

The deliverables of the discovery stage wrap-up (with examples):

What comes after discovery in software development project management?

Custom software development timeline consists of phases. The projects at Apiko start with discovery, which further puts you on track for smooth mobile app development or custom software development.

In general, the phases of software development include:

Why is the discovery phase crucial to the success of your IT project?

  • To build a market-driven product

Discovery phase as the initial stage of software development bases the whole process on data, not just assumptions, to build a truly market-driven product. Translating your business goals into a project scope involves defining your product vision from the perspective of business analysis, UX, and IT architecture. The deliverables of the discovery phase will maximize the use of time, human, and financial resources, and will help you keep your development process on the right track.

  • To test an idea

To better test an idea before developing it into a fully-fledged product, you can also design a prototype. It will give you an opportunity to validate the usability, design, and functionality of your app in its simplest form. The project discovery phase is great to test ideas and make sure they strike a balance between your business values, market demand, and the interests of the end users of the product. 

  • To have a clear project roadmap 

Detailed planning and requirements elicitation set your project on the right track. After the discovery phase, you will gain a clear understanding of your project’s direction. With a detailed roadmap and defined milestones, you will be able to keep the whole development process and all team members aligned, and avoid unnecessary risks and costs as well.

Need help with a software project? Talk to our specialists to help you mitigate risks and set your development in a clear direction.